Very few people embrace change well. As a result organisations fail to implement change strategies 70% of the time. Change management failures often lead to the undoing of the organisation. Stress levels go up exponentially with the increase in degree of change, leading to strong resistance to change, internal conflict and loss of productivity. In a changing organisation the number of days off due to “sick” leave increase in organisations that do not implement carefully and correctly.
We live in an era of rapid change in virtually all aspects of life. People feel less secure in their family life, their jobs and their futures. Trying to implement change under such circumstances can be the “straw that broke the camel’s back”. It seems that such stressors are on the increase creating less tolerance for personal change and increased use of drugs and alcohol. If you are a manager or a business owner the consequences ultimately come to rest on your shoulders.
There are dozens of theories about why organisations behave as they do. And even more as to why individuals resist change and will often self-sabotage rather than letting an organisation inflict change on them. The Whitehall report showed clearly that people who believe they have little or no influence over their environment carry substantially more stress than those in control (sorry Mr. Manager, I know you thought you carried the bulk of organisational stress!). Change simply adds more stress to the already high loads.
Simply put a smart manager will recognize the needs of his/her people and implement a strategy to incorporate those needs into the change program before anything else begins. This requires a very specific evaluation and communication process that often is outside the knowledge base of even the best of people managers. Get it wrong and you will pay the price.
So does this mean one should avoid change in an organisation? Should you avoid being a failure statistic by doing nothing? Unfortunately this also brings disaster in a rapidly moving world. You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. So you might as well get it right the first time.
The resistance to change stems from fixed patterns we develop at an unconscious level. Just as our unconscious mind learns how to walk and talk when we are very young, so it learns its patterns of behaviour and handling social situations. Anything that tries to move you off your unconsciously driven path will meet with resistance. You often see this when you go to motivational and life changing seminars. It feels great for 24-48 hours and you feel like you will change the world, but 98% of us end up back in the same patterns within days. It is our unconscious mind that doesn’t like change and creates all of the resistance.
But if you handle it the right way, your mind will do exactly what it is told to do. Current methods of changing the way mind reacts to its environment have dramatically improved in recent years. Even severe trauma that has had life long intrusive effects and resists normal interventions can now be removed in hours, not years. The same change methods work with organisations. In reality the whole organisation, or its sub-parts, behave in exactly the same way as individuals when it comes to change implementation.
The secret is in the method of understanding and communications. You cannot just talk at staff and expect them to graciously accept your offer to turn their life on its head. Such stress inducing methods are destructive in the extreme and tend to produce illness and sometimes death.
It is amazing that many organisations have multi million dollars budgets to implement a change program but then forget about the very heart of the organisation, its people.
Gary Johnston is a specialist in Stress and Change Management. Having worked in personal and organisational change management for over 30 years, Gary’s strategies to dissolve resistance and create deep change are legendary. He takes the humanist approach of dealing with the concerns of the individual at an unconscious level and implements permanent stress reduction and change mechanisms that flow through entire organisations. A skilled communicator and presenter, Gary sees components of organisational structure that very few can.